• Kenyan wins marathon as China tops gold tally - [Olympic]

    2008-08-25 | Tag:OLYMPICS _ News


    The curtain came down on the 2008 Olympic Games Sunday but not before the day had thrown up some pleasant surprises.

    A country that has produced some great long-distance runners had to wait for Beijing to win its first marathon gold. Samuel Wanjiru did that honor for Kenya, and in Olympic record time too.

    Samuel Kamau Wansiru of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the men's marathon in the athletics competition at the National Stadium during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 24, 2008. [Agencies]

    China was expected to lead the gold medal tally, and it did, taking 51 of them to end up with a total medals' tally with the wonderful round figure of 100. China's gold haul is the biggest after the erstwhile Soviet Union's 55 gold medals in Seoul 1988.

    Though the US was second on the gold tally, the first time it slipped from the top since 1992, it beat its own record of total number of medals. It won 110 medals, two more than in 1992 and 10 more than China's total. These records are obviously for non-boycotted Games.

    The 17-day Beijing Games saw 43 world records and more than 120 Olympic records shattered.

    The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was pleased with the Games and the hosts, with IOC President Jacques Rogge saying at the closing ceremony: "Thank you to the people of China, to all the wonderful volunteers and to BOCOG (Beijing Games organizing committee)."

    He said the world will cherish the 17 glorious days of the Games "forever".

    The last day belonged to China as much as it did to Kenya, as Zou Shiming won the host country's first boxing gold. He lifted the title after Mongolian light-flyweight pugilist Serdamba Purevdorj retired in the second round because of a shoulder injury.

    Zou Shiming (L) celebrates his victory over Mongolia's Serdamba Purevdorj during their Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Light Flyweight (48 kg) final boxing bout on August 24, 2008 in Beijing. [Agencies]

    Zou's victory makes the world champion's four-year dream come true, who had won China's first boxing medal (a bronze) in Athens 2004.

    Two hours after Zou's historic win, light-heavyweight Zhang Xiaoping won a surprising bout against Kenny Egan of Ireland, giving China its second boxing gold.

    Zhang Xiaoping of China celebrates after defeating Kenny Egan of Ireland in their light heavyweight (81kg) final boxing match at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 24, 2008. [Agencies]

    The super-heavyweight final brought down the curtain on two weeks of action in the boxing ring, with Italian Roberto Cammarelle beating Chinese favorite Zhang Zhilei for the gold.

    China's central leadership congratulated the country's athletes for their "achievement". The Communist Party of China's (CPC) Central Committee and the State Council sent a joint congratulatory message that said: "The motherland and the people feel proud of you. We extend warm congratulations and heartfelt compliments to you, who have won immense glory for your country and people."

    It said the Chinese sports delegation has "achieved a major historic breakthrough," "written a new chapter of China's sports development," and "made significant contributions to the hosting of a high-standard and unique Olympic Games in Beijing".

    "The Chinese delegation has demonstrated the Olympic spirit both on and off the field, showing China's unyielding spirit, solidarity and pursuit of peace and progress," the message said.

    But the celebration is not China's alone. Every country that took part in the Games had reason to rejoice, for many a country won its first Olympic medal in Beijing

    Britain's athletes gave the country a lot to cheer about before hosting the 2012 Games. Britain's gold haul and its overall position on the medals' tally were the best in a century.

    The Games saw a record number of 87 countries winning medals, seven more than the previous high in Sydney 2000. A dozen nations either won their first-ever gold or their first-ever medal in any color.

    Africa as a continent won 40 medals - the most ever. They included the first-ever Olympic medals for Togo in canoeing, Mauritius in boxing and Sudan in the 800m race. Also winning their first-ever medals were Tajikistan, Bahrain (a gold by Rachid Ramzi in the men's 1,500), and war-torn Afghanistan.

    Two other athletes won their countries' first gold medals - Panamanian long jumper Irving Saladino and Mongolian judoka Naidangiin Tuvshinbayar.

    It was here that Kenya had saved its last for the best. Its marathon runner Wanjiru negotiated the 42.195-km (26-mile, 385-yard) course through the streets of Beijing in bright morning sunshine in an Olympic record time of 2 hours, 6 minutes, 32 seconds.

    But if we talk about the match of the day, it definitely has to be the gold-medal basketball clash between the US and Spain. The gallant Spaniards gave a real fright to the powerful US team before losing 107-118.

    In volleyball, the US upset defending champion Brazil 3-1 to win the gold - the first time in 20 years.

    The US was not so lucky in water polo, however, in which Hungary continued its dominance with a thrilling 14-10 win, lifting its third successive Olympic gold.

    And Russia continued its monopoly in rhythmic gymnastics, also winning its third consecutive Olympic gold. China has enough reason to celebrate its success in the event because its quintet snatched a surprise silver, giving the country's its first Olympic rhythmic medal.

    Agencies contributed to the story